SETsquared Blog


I spent Sunday afternoon with a new friend of mine. It was a stunningly beautiful afternoon, so much of it was spent outside soaking up the sun (apparently it's as rare here as it is back home in Scotland). We spent a great deal of time discussing and philosophising on social behaviours, what motivates people, why people behave the way they do and how best to gather information from this behaviour.

Downtown Seattle from Queen Anne hill just north of the city. Mount Rainier is in the background.

Although she doesn't know it, she's fast becoming somewhat of a mentor of mine. Her company (which she founded) is very similar to the company that I am founding at home with two colleagues, but she's just one or two years ahead of me.

Seattlites like to celebrate every ray of sunshine. There must have been over 300 people round this fountain.

It's like I have a whole load of jigsaw pieces floating around in my head and every conversation we have i'm able to piece together a little more of the puzzle. What struck me this time was that i'm constantly on the search for answers. I suppose i'm somewhat impatient in this respect. If I have a question, I need an answer. And I need to know the answer to precisely what I asked otherwise I get frustrated. Well i've learned now, that this is perhaps not the best way to learn.

Seattle is home to Bill Gates. And if he is to have an office at all, this is where it is, 'The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation'.

All through school we're given a road map to follow, we're told what we don't know and are challenged to find out the answer to these uncertainties. Then at the end of each academic year we're tested on whether we know the correct answers to these pre determined questions. So when they stop asking questions we stop learning because we've never been challenged to set our own questions.

The view west to Olympic National Park from the top of the Space Needle. I am getting more and more desperate to go and play in those mountains!

Working at Startup Weekend has helped me to start asking my own questions. Nobody is going to hold my hand, they don't have time. No one is going to set me daily tasks, there's no deadlines. So I could easily sit and twiddle my thumbs, take rather long lunch breaks and browse facebook all day. But I couldn't do that because I was desperate to learn from the people at Startup Weekend. So I asked questions, lots and lots of questions and when the answer came, "oh, you will learn. Just do something and you will learn." I got rather frustrated. Because how was I meant to learn if there was no predefined problem for me to solve? How was I mean't to complete a task if I wasn't given one?

Looking up from below. The Space Needle against a cloudless night.

Well I learned to build my own road map, to ask my own questions, to set my own tasks and to FIND questions to answer. It's helped me to see the bigger picture, to search for problems and not to be complacent when everything seems fine. I've learned that to keep learning I must learn to learn and not just to answer questions. I've learned to give myself direction instead of heading in the direction i'm told to go.... because nobody is telling me where to go anymore. And instead of being daunting, it's exhilarating. Instead of being constrained by the boundaries of someone else's question i'm constrained only by my imagination.... and I have an active imagination!